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French tourist says he did not know prostitute was underage

A 63-YEAR-OLD French tourist accused of purchasing child prostitution from a 16-year-old girl in Daun Penh district last year says he thought the girl was over the legal age of 18, Phnom Penh Municipal Court heard on Monday.

Jean-Michel Raymond Charlot was arrested on August 20 last year during a police raid in which he was caught having sex with the girl at his guesthouse in Srak Chork commune, according to testimony.

The accused, who was on his third trip to Cambodia, told the court he had paid US$30 to a tuk-tuk driver to act as his translator and guide for half a day. He said the driver helped him negotiate a price of $10 for sex with the girl, who had told him through the driver that she was 18. Throughout the hearing, the defence blasted the victim, accusing her of making a business of trying to get foreigners arrested.

The 16-year-old told the court that she regretted the arrest and had no intention of entrapping foreigners, but had worked as a prostitute since she was 14 to support her poverty-stricken family.

“I feel terribly sorry and regretful that some foreigners were arrested and convicted because of me, but I didn’t know that the police were following me,” she said.

Questioned by court officials about his intentions, Charlot said he was attempting to have intercourse with the girl, but said he had ultimately been unsuccessful.

“I was having sex with [the victim], but she was in pain, and then the police came into my room and arrested me,” he said.

One of two lawyers acting on behalf of the victim, Peng Maneth, who was provided by Action Pours Les Enfants, a group which campaigns against the sexual abuse of children, said that Charlot should be banned from returning to Cambodia and forced to pay $5,000 in compensation on the basis of his having confessed to having sex with a minor.

Under Article 34 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, which regulates the purchasing of prostitution involving minors, Charlot faces between a two-year and five-year prison sentence if found guilty.

The court is expected to deliver its verdict on Thursday.

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